Vice President of Learning and Engagement

Vice President of Learning and Engagement

International African American Museum

Charleston, SC   |   August 30, 2021

About International African American Museum

The International African American Museum (IAAM) honors the untold stories of the African American journey at one of our country’s most sacred sites. The museum is about a journey that began centuries ago in Africa, and still continues. It is about the journey of millions of Africans, captured and forced across the Atlantic in the grueling and inhumane Middle Passage, who arrived at Gadsden’s Wharf in Charleston, South Carolina and other ports in the Atlantic World. Their labor, resistance, and ingenuity and that of their descendants have shaped every aspect of our world.

The museum will sit on the shoulders of 18 strong columns, 13 feet above the sacred grounds of the Gadsden’s Wharf site. On the ground level, the African Ancestors Memorial Garden will highlight the original shoreline—the exact spot where so many captive Africans first set foot in America. There will be gardens for quiet contemplation, as well as space for performances and programs.

The museum’s exhibitions will share untold stories using classic techniques as well as new approaches driven by innovation, technology, and digital interactivity. Themes will include connections across the African diaspora, the spread of African American culture and influence, the history and preservation of the Gullah-Geechee culture, and the movements – past and present – for justice and equality. Core exhibitions will neither shy away from telling the story of the horrors and tragedy of slavery, nor omit the stories of skilled craftsmen and women who built the foundations of wealth, artistry, and infrastructure of America. The Center for Family History will enable visitors to trace their genealogy, while changing exhibitions and special events will keep the museum energized. Educational programs will provide life-long learning opportunities for visitors both young and old.

The museum strives to foster empathy and understanding, empowering visitors with the knowledge of the past. The journey will challenge, illuminate, inspire, and ultimately, will move people to action.

For more information on IAAM, please visit the website.

The Opportunity

As the IAAM nears its anticipated Fall 2022 opening, the organization seeks a Vice President of Learning and Engagement to serve as a key member of the senior executive team, providing strategic direction for the creation and enhancement of dynamic programming that explores the Middle Passage, the African diaspora, and African Americans’ crucial influence and contributions to our history and our modern world.

Through innovative leadership in support of the vision, values, and mission of IAAM, the Vice President will align strategy to organizational vision across four key pillars of the Museum: school programs; the Center for Family History, a one-of-a-kind research center with a special focus on African American genealogy; faith-based initiatives and programs; and local and national public programs. The VP will be a builder, excited to join IAAM in its “start-up” stages, as well as a thought-leader and implementation partner to CEO in creating and stewarding meaningful partnership to achieve outreach, impact, and mission goals.

The Vice President of Learning and Engagement reports to the Chief Executive Officer, represents the department at board and executive leadership meetings, and provides direction for staff, all while developing strategies for programs, partnerships, and operations that support the Museum overall and the department’s specific strategic vision and plans.

IAAM’s team members are committed to excellence and share a common goal: to leverage their individual strengths and help build a great institution.

Key Responsibilities

Community Engagement and Program Leadership

  • In collaboration with the CEO, establish long‐range vision, general operating plans, and annual goals, objectives, and priorities for Learning and Engagement
  • Lead the design and development of creative engagement, education, and learning opportunities with programs for all ages that:
    • Align with the Museum’s Mission, Strategic Plan, and broader organizational priorities
    • Leverage the assets of the Museum
    • Create visibility for the Museum as a thought leader and through engaging prominent thought leaders and respected individuals as participants
    • Incorporate instructional best practices to achieve optimal learning outcomes for a range of constituencies including children, students, teachers, and adults
    • Are feasible within organizational constraints and goals
    • Reflect and enhance exhibition themes and the diversity and breadth of contemporary issues
    • Educate, inspire, and engage a broad range of audiences through a variety of formats and platforms
    • Drive attendance, strengthen visitor experience, and deepen connections to local, regional, national, and international potential audiences.
  • Think holistically about strategic initiatives to make informed choices about program creation and enhancements
  • Collaborate with Museum colleagues across departments to create a coherent and shared learning experience for all visitors
  • Spearhead initiatives to engage diverse communities
  • Further develop, build, and manage partnerships with external constituencies and collaborators—cultural institutions, educational professionals, community groups & leaders, government agencies
  • Further develop, build, and manage signature national programs and locally featured programs for Museum
  • Monitor and measure the success and impact of programs
  • Support CEO in creating and stewarding training and upskilling in cultural and historic competency for museum staff and board
  • In collaboration with Marketing and Communications staff, develop marketing strategies for programs so programs achieve maximum reach and educational impact
  • In collaboration with Development staff, cultivate ongoing relationships with potential funders and donors

Team Leadership

  • Establish annual goals, objectives, and priorities with each team and direct reports
  • Develop and support the Learning and Engagement staff
  • Meet with Learning and Engagement staff to keep the team abreast of decisions made by the Executive Team
  • Assess hiring needs for the department
  • Represent the department at Executive Staff meetings, and in strategic planning with the Board of Trustees

Administration and Operations

  • Maintain the roughly $3.5M budget for the department and think strategically about the resources needed for sustainability and growth
  • Work with the Development team to identify and apply for funding opportunities from individual, government, foundation, and corporate sources
  • Manage the department’s grants and awards
  • Collaborate with the CEO, COO, CFO, and project staff to manage program budgets
  • Understand earned income and attendance fluctuations, and create opportunities to develop these areas
Candidate Profile

The Vice President of Learning and Engagement will demonstrate at least ten years of educational or programmatic leadership experience in a senior role, ideally in public history or related fields, as well as a strong track record of creative leadership to design and deliver impactful, educational school and public programming and community-building experiences to fulfill and amplify the Museum’s mission. A bachelor’s degree is required; an advanced degree is preferred; deep professional and leadership experience in a comparable setting will also be given serious consideration. Demonstrated experience in collaborating or leading exhibition visioning and management, alongside basic curatorial competency and experience, is also highly valued.

In addition, top candidates will possess the following professional and personal attributes, skills, and characteristics:

Creativity and Innovation in Programming

Preferred candidates will have a robust knowledge of best practices in program design, evaluation, and curriculum development. With exceptional conceptual and strategic thinking abilities and a high level of intellectual curiosity, the Vice President of Learning and Engagement leads teams to curate and evolve “big ideas” into reality and deliver results within budgetary parameters, while boldly pushing the boundaries of the work and encouraging innovative and creative ideas and initiatives toward reaching new audiences. The Vice President for Learning and Engagement must possess a commitment to working with children and families as well as faith-based, community, and civic groups, and enthusiasm and experience working with diverse audiences and cultures in authentic and meaningful ways.

Building Strong Teams and Internal Relationships

An individual of high emotional intelligence, the Vice President of Learning and Engagement offers excellent interpersonal skills, establishes rapport and cultivates relationships across all levels of the organization, and empowers a diverse staff and external constituents to deliver results; this includes staff, Trustees, educators, artists, historians, donors, and a broad range of other external constituents. It is imperative that they foster an atmosphere of collaboration and partnership across the organization. The Vice President leads and manages teams with empathy, a high standard of excellence and accountability, and inclusivity, allowing for the building of consensus and recognition of teamwork. This individual will foster trust and collaboration among team members and will possess the ability to manage through IAAM’s launch and beyond with flexibility, poise, and a sense of humor. The Vice President is capable of recognizing untapped talents and is able to coach and develop a wide range of experiences with a small staff. This individual is fiscally responsible while being a catalyst for change and growth who inspires others to think entrepreneurially and inject new ideas. The Vice President offers creative, yet practical ideas to achieve the strategic direction of IAAM, doing so with a deep understanding and commitment to the needs and nuances of the organization and community.


The Vice President of Learning and Engagement is a gifted leader who will serve as an ambassador for IAAM in the education, public programming, and community building domains and beyond. An engaging spokesperson, the Vice President enjoys the external side of the role, working to inspire enthusiastic relationships with educators, faith leaders, historians, artists, scholars, civic and community members, government officials, donors, foundations, and corporate executives to broaden and deepen interest in the organization. The individual in this role represents IAAM as it seeks to increase engagement with local communities, regionally, nationally, and internationally, and is a passionate, articulate, and effective advocate for the Museum to a wide range of constituents. The Vice President believes deeply in building and nurturing a robust network of relationships to foster collaboration and advance the Museum’s mission. They are entrepreneurial and creative when thinking about how best to cultivate new groups of stakeholders in the mission of the Museum and to create a welcoming environment for all visitors and program participants. They will be a good listener and compelling communicator capable of leveraging multiple platforms to advance the organization’s goals and articulate its value proposition to a wide range of constituents.

Passion for the Mission

The Vice President of Learning and Engagement of the International African American Museum will be an ambitious, inventive, and collaborative leader who is inspired by the mission of the Museum and can inspire others as well. Fully embracing the mission of the Museum, the relationship with the local and broader communities, and the commitment to its various constituencies, the Vice President will have a love of learning; a deep interest in the history of the Middle Passage and the African Diaspora and the history and contributions of African Americans; and the desire to proactively address issues of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion with regards to the content and staffing of programming, the visitor experience, and community engagement.

They will be passionate about working in partnership with the staff, donors, and other partners to advance the mission the Museum and its educational and programmatic initiatives. In addition, the Vice President of Learning and Engagement will embody an understanding of and appreciation for the role that cultural institutions and other informal environments can play in learning. They will possess and promote a deep appreciation for the collections, programs, building, history, research, and scholarship of the Museum and will demonstrate a commitment to public involvement, community building, and the visitor experience. Working closely with the Chief Executive Officer, the Vice President of Learning and Engagement will serve as a bridge between the internal staff and external partners and will fully embody the values of the International African American Museum. Finally, the ideal candidate is an individual of integrity, ethics, and values, who can be trusted without reservation.

Compensation & Benefits

The salary and benefits package is competitive and commensurate with experience.


Koya Partners, the executive search firm that specializes in mission-driven search, has been exclusively retained for this engagement. Naree W. S. Viner and Tenley Bank of Koya Partners are leading this search. To express interest in this role please submit your materials to Tenley directly at [email protected]. All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.


The International African American Museum provides equal opportunity to all employees and applicants without regard to race, religion, color, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), parental status, national origin, age, disability, family medical history or genetic information, political affiliation, military service, or other non-merit based factors.

About Koya Partners

Koya Partners, a part of Diversified Search Group, is a leading executive search and strategic advising firm dedicated to connecting exceptionally talented people with mission-driven clients. Our founding philosophy—The Right Person in the Right Place Can Change the World—guides our work as we partner with nonprofits & NGOs, institutions of higher education, responsible businesses, and social enterprises in local communities and around the world.

For more information about Koya Partners, visit